CSI Junior Academy continues June 26

Published 6:15 pm Tuesday, June 25, 2013

CSI Junior Academy cadets practice blood spatter evidence.

CSI Junior Academy cadets practice blood spatter evidence.

An unintended byproduct of Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) Junior Academy is that 30 Cass County students will be able to discern by the end of this week when road kill died.

They also know of “patiki eye,” a misspelling of petechiae, though pronounced the same.

Petechiae are small reddish spots which appear on on the sclera (white of the eye) or the conjunctiva (inside of the eyelid) due to capillaries bursting when deprived of oxygen. Babies can get it from crying too hard.

As they work toward a mock trial Friday at the Law and Courts Building in Cassopolis, Tuesday afternoon the six groups of five cast plaster impressions of their shoes in a sandy creek bed down one of the trails behind Southwestern Michigan College Mathews Conference Center and painted a blood-red abstract practicing spatter with Jim Kusa of Dowagiac Police Department and Phil Small of Cass County Sheriff’s Office.

They finished the afternoon with cadet-style sit-ups and pushups in an air-conditioned conference room decked out like a morgue with plastic skeletons in body bags.

Kusa even demonstrated the gut-wrenching exercise known as the dying cockroach.

Several students have participated before, but it was Dowagiac seventh-grader Makaela Miracle’s first time after “hearing about it a lot. It sounded like a fun thing to do.”

Makaela’s favorite part after two days was “the footprints we just did. Yesterday, we did fingerprinting.”

She might be interested in a forensics career, but being a doctor or a brain surgeon also appeal to her.

Sponsored by SMC’s Educational Talent Search program directed by Edwardsburg school board member Amy Anderson, CSI Jr. Academy journeys to Dowagiac Conservation Club Wednesday for a presentation by the warrant service team that includes a Taser demonstration, with the stun gun used on a volunteer officer.

Anderson summons them from breaks with a siren broadcast through a bullhorn as “Bad Boys,” the theme from “Cops,” plays in the background.

The group was getting restless as June 25 drew to a close, what with all the science sneaking into their summer vacations as members learn about the difference between algor mortis, rigor mortis and livor mortis or the distinction between types of bruises, such as hematomas (blood pools outside of vessels) and contusions (smaller, outside capillaries).

“Once you die and your heart stops beating,” Kusa said, “your blood is subject to gravity. If you’re lying on your back, blood will pool so the top will be ashen.”

These tidbits of information turn into tools Thursday during witness interviews as campers craft their cases.

“When you go to crime scenes you’re going to have a camera. You’re going to need someone to do measurements,” Anderson said.

Another member will be posted at the door logging people in and out to avoid contamination.

Anderson also reminded the puffing cadets they should be able to perform pull-ups and be able to run three miles three times a week at a pace of nine miles per hour.

Students enrolled in CSI Jr. Academy learn from professionals the tools and techniques used to solve crimes, handling evidence, fingerprinting, soil, blood and trace analysis, crime scene sketching and tool and dental impressions.

Friday, the strands come together in court proceedings with a jury, guided by real attorneys, to determine who committed the crime.